Some of you will remember those commercials years ago where some guys, sitting with friends is a loud restaurant, says something like, “My broker is Joe Bagofdonuts. Joe says…”, and suddenly the entire restaurant is dead still with everyone leaning in, straining to hear.
When Msgr. Nicola Bux speaks we should listen. Edward Pentin, arguably the best English language Vaticanista right now, interviewed Msgr. Bux (of the famous Bux Protocol™) at the NCRegister.
Monsignor Bux: We Are in a Full Crisis of Faith
To resolve the current crisis in the Church over papal teaching and authority, the Pope must make a declaration of faith, affirming what is Catholic and correcting his own “ambiguous and erroneous” words and actions that have been interpreted in a non-Catholic manner.
This is according to Monsignor Nicola Bux, a respected theologian and former consulter to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith during Benedict XVI’s pontificate. [NB: former… but keep in mind that he had served under Benedict in that role, which tells you a great deal]
In the following interview with the Register, Msgr. Bux explains that the Church is in a “full crisis of faith” and that the storms of division the Church is currently experiencing are due to apostasy — the “abandonment of Catholic thought.”
Msgr. Bux’s comments come after news that the four dubia cardinals, seeking papal clarification of his exhortation Amoris Laetitia, wrote to the Pope April 25 asking him for an audience but have yet to receive a reply.
The cardinals expressed concern over the “grave situation” of episcopal conferences and individual bishops offering widely differing interpretations of the document, some of which they say break with the Church’s teaching. They are particularly concerned about the deep confusion this has caused, especially for priests.
“For many Catholics, it is incredible that the Pope is asking bishops to dialogue with those who think differently [i.e. non-Catholic Christians], but does not want first to face the cardinals who are his chief advisors,” Msgr. Bux says.
“If the Pope does not safeguard doctrine,” he adds, “he cannot impose discipline.” [Tell that to the priests in that that diocese in Nigeria.]
PENTIN Monsignor Bux, what are the implications of the ‘doctrinal anarchy’ that people see happening for the Church, the souls of the faithful and priests?
BUX The first implication of doctrinal anarchy for the Church is division, caused by apostasy, which is the abandonment of Catholic thought, as defined by St. Vincent of Lerins: quod semper, quod ubique, quod ab omnibus creditur (what has been believed everywhere, always, and by all). Saint Irenaeus of Lyon, who calls Jesus Christ the “Master of unity,” had pointed out to heretics that everyone professes the same things, but not everyone means the same thing. This is the role of the Magisterium, founded on the truth of Christ: to bring everyone back to Catholic unity.
St. Paul exhorted Christians to be in agreement and to speak with unanimity. What would he say today? When cardinals are silent or accuse their confreres; when bishops who had thought, spoken and written — scripta manent! [written words remain]— in a Catholic way, but then say the opposite for whatever reason; when priests contest the liturgical tradition of the Church, then apostasy is established, the detachment from Catholic thought. Paul VI had foreseen that “this non-Catholic thought within Catholicism will tomorrow become the strongest [force]. But it will never represent the Church’s thinking. A small flock must remain, no matter how small it is.” (Conversation with J. Guitton, 9.IX.1977). [A small flock… sigh…]
PENTIN What implications, then, does doctrinal anarchy have for the souls of the faithful and ecclesiastics?
BUX The Apostle exhorts us to be faithful to sure, sound and pure doctrine: that founded on Jesus Christ and not on worldly opinions (cf. Titus 1:7-11; 2:1-8). Perseverance in teaching and obedience to doctrine leads souls to eternal salvation. [NB] The Church cannot change the faith and at the same time ask believers to remain faithful to it. She is instead intimately obliged to be oriented toward the Word of God and toward Tradition.
Therefore, the Church remembers the Lord’s judgment: “For judgment I came into this world, that those who do not see may see, and those who see may become blind.” (John 9:39). Do not forget that, when one is applauded by the world, it means one belongs to it. In fact, the world loves its own and hates what does not belong to it (cf. John 15:19). May the Catholic Church always remember that she is made up of only those who have converted to Christ under the guidance of the Holy Spirit; all human beings are ordained to her (cf. Lumen gentium 13), but they are not part of her until they are converted.
PENTIN How can this problem best be resolved?
BUX The point is: what idea does the Pope have of the Petrine ministry, as described in Lumen gentium 18 and codified in canon law? Faced with confusion and apostasy, the Pope should make the distinction — as Benedict XVI did — between what he thinks and says as a private, learned person, and what he must say as Pope of the Catholic Church. [I believe JPII did the same before B16 did.] To be clear: the Pope can express his ideas as a private learned person on disputable matters which are not defined by the Church, but he cannot make heretical claims, even privately. Otherwise it would be equally heretical.
I believe that the Pope knows that every believer — who knows the regula fidei [the rule of faith] or dogma, which provides everyone with the criterion to know what the faith of the Church is, what everyone has to believe and who one has to listen to — can see if he is speaking and operating in a Catholic way, or has gone against the Church’s sensus fidei [sense of the faith]. Even one believer can hold him to account. [I have in mind a figure in the Church whom St Augustine describes as homo spiritalis.] So whoever thinks [Card. Rodriguez! Etc!] that presenting doubts [dubia] to the Pope is not a sign of obedience, hasn’t understood, 50 years after Vatican II, the relationship between him [the Pope] and the whole Church. Obedience to the Pope depends solely on the fact that he is bound by Catholic doctrine, to the faith that he must continually profess before the Church.
We are in a full crisis of faith! Therefore, in order to stop the divisions in progress, the Pope — like Paul VI in 1967, faced with the erroneous theories that were circulating shortly after the conclusion of the Council — should make a Declaration or Profession of Faith, affirming what is Catholic, and correcting those ambiguous and erroneous words and acts — his own and those of bishops — that are interpreted in a non-Catholic manner. [In June 1968 Paul issued with an Apostolic Letter Motu Proprio his great “Credo of the People of God“. More on that below.]
Otherwise, it would be grotesque that, while seeking unity with non-Catholic Christians or even understanding with non-Christians, apostasy and division is being fostered within the Catholic Church. For many Catholics, it is incredible that the Pope is asking bishops to dialogue with those who think differently, but does not want first to face the cardinals who are his chief advisors. If the Pope does not safeguard doctrine, he cannot impose discipline. As John Paul II said, the Pope must always be converted, to be able to strengthen his brothers, according to the words of Christ to Peter: “Et tu autem conversus, confirma fratres tuos [when you are converted, strengthen your brothers].”
In 1967 the Church was being torn apart by wild ideas. As an example of the chaos take the infamous “Dutch Catechism”. Paul VI, talking Charles Journet, saw that the Church at the time was in a state of disaster. He therefore called for a Year of Faith for 67-68 (much like Benedict did later). At the end of the Year, Paul issued his “Credo of the People of God”, a text crafted on the basis of the Nicene Creed and expanded by Jacques Maritain and amended by the Holy Office. Paul’s “Creed” is non-liturgical.
In his introduction to the text of the “Creed”, Paul, in his Apostolic Letter, wrote… and see if this doesn’t dovetail with what Msgr. Bux asked for (i.e., profession of faith in troubled times):
3. [W]e deem that we must fulfill the mandate entrusted by Christ to Peter, whose successor we are, the last in merit; namely, to confirm our brothers in the faith. With the awareness, certainly, of our human weakness, yet with all the strength impressed on our spirit by such a command, we shall accordingly make a profession of faith, pronounce a creed which, without being strictly speaking a dogmatic definition, repeats in substance, with some developments called for by the spiritual condition of our time, the creed of Nicea, the creed of the immortal tradition of the holy Church of God.
4. In making this profession, we are aware of the disquiet which agitates certain modern quarters with regard to the faith. They do not escape the influence of a world being profoundly changed, in which so many certainties are being disputed or discussed. We see even Catholics allowing themselves to be seized by a kind of passion for change and novelty. The Church, most assuredly, has always the duty to carry on the effort to study more deeply and to present, in a manner ever better adapted to successive generations, the unfathomable mysteries of God, rich for all in fruits of salvation. But at the same time the greatest care must be taken, while fulfilling the indispensable duty of research, to do no injury to the teachings of Christian doctrine. For that would be to give rise, as is unfortunately seen in these days, to disturbance and perplexity in many faithful souls.
Alas, I think that Paul himself contributed to that confusion, especially by signing off on the liturgical reform that went waaaaay beyond what the Council had mandated. The general impression was, “If the way we say Mass can be so profoundly changed, then anything, even doctrine, can be changed.”
Consider the times. What Paul did happened in the turbulent revolution years of 67-68. Humane vitae, was issued then. Turbulent years and crazy stuff is coming up now. Protests not unlike those of the 60s are taking place. There is an even more horrible “sexual” revolution going on, in which human nature itself is debased in what Card. Sarah rightly calls diabolical “gender theory”. Now there seems to be a movement to nullify the teaching of Paul’s greatest accomplishment, Humanae vitae, afoot and also the Magisterium of John Paul II.
I had thought that at the end of the most recent Year of Faith, Benedict XVI would issue something very much like Paul VI’s “Credo of the People of God”. But he resigned before the Year of Faith ended.
Were Francis to take up the entirely reasonable call to issue a “profession of faith” along the lines of what Bux called for, he would be following in the footsteps of Paul VI and he would also fulfill something that, I believe, Benedict XVI could have, should have, would have done in 2013.